That more people rely on food stamp benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the economy is sluggish is no surprise. When a state loses jobs, its people fall back on the government safety net.
In Rhode Island, jobs haven’t been coming back very quickly, and SNAP participation has remained high. Although down from a peak in early 2013, as of July 2015 (the latest available data), Rhode Island had still added 100,435 people to the SNAP rolls since the recession began in January 2007. Because there are still 9,400 fewer jobs in the state since then, the gap between the two statistics stands at 109,835.
Not surprisingly, that gap of 10.4% of the state’s population is by far the largest in New England:
In total, 173,617 Rhode Islanders were participating in the SNAP program as of July, or 16.5% of the population. That’s down from a peak of 180,940 in March 2013, but up dramatically from the 55,483 in November 1988, the lowest number on record. (Data is only available back to October 1988.) Rhode Island did not cross the 100,000-participants mark until April 2009.